Greens plan major Australia Day date change campaign

Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale addresses media in Sydney, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Greens Senator Larissa Waters has resigned from parliament over her dual Australian-Canadian citizenship. The second such resignation from The Greens in a week. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING
Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale addresses media in Sydney, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Greens Senator Larissa Waters has resigned from parliament over her dual Australian-Canadian citizenship. The second such resignation from The Greens in a week. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Australia Day Cockroach Races at the Story Bridge Hotel on January 26, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Tammy Law/Fairfax Media)

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26: Australia Day Cockroach Races at the Story Bridge Hotel on January 26, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Tammy Law/Fairfax Media)

The Greens are planning a major new national campaign to change the date of Australia Day, with federal leader Richard Di Natale listing the controversial push as one of his top priorities for 2018.

Senator Di Natale says his team will coordinate with more than 100 Greens councillors scattered across the country to support the "change the date" movement and turbocharge the public debate.

He wants more local councils to follow the lead of Yarra, Darebin and Fremantle, which have all made some moves to dump Australia Day celebrations from January 26 and move them to a different day.

"All Australians want a day on which we can come together and to celebrate our wonderfully diverse, open and free society - but January 26 is not that day," Senator Di Natale told Fairfax Media on Sunday.

"It's time that we stop papering over an issue that for 200 years has been so divisive and painful for so many of our citizens."

The change the date movement has gathered momentum in recent years but has also proven divisive.

While the idea is supported by many Indigenous leaders, who say January 26 represents the dispossession and violence of British settlement - there is also significant resistance, including from the Turnbull government.

The government last year banned the Greens-led Yarra and Darebin councils in Victoria from holding citizenship ceremonies after they passed motions to change the date, accusing them of hijacking the celebration.

The government earlier also forbade Fremantle from moving its citizenship ceremonies to a different day.

In Sydney, Inner West council flirted with the idea of scrubbing Australia Day celebrations but instead opted to offer additional citizenship ceremonies during NAIDOC week, which this year beings on July 1, as an alternative to January 26.

The federal government encourages citizenship ceremonies to be held on either Australia Day or Australian Citizenship Day, in September.

The issue gained further public prominence after the ABC's youth radio broadcaster Triple J announced it was moving its annual Hottest 100 music countdown from January 26 to January 27.

Triple J announced the change after it came under pressure from Indigenous groups and musicians to change the date. It also conducted two surveys that showed a majority of listeners supported the move.

But Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said he was "bewildered" by the decision and the ABC should not be buying into the debate.

The federal Greens have begun writing to local councils offering support for their local change the date campaigns, with Senator Di Natale and his MPs offering to leverage the resources of their offices.

They will also be supporting community groups that aim to educate and persuade people to support the change.

Amanda Stone from Yarra Council welcomed the federal party's plans.

"The most disappointing element to this whole story has been the lack of leadership shown by the other federal parties," she said. "It's the right thing to do and history will show that it's the right thing to do."

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 because the First Fleet landed in Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788.

This story Greens plan major Australia Day date change campaign first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.